BOSTON — Hundreds of people poured onto Boston Common Sunday night after news broke that the U.S. had killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Norm Lang heard the news at work. He was cooking at a restaurant in Kenmore Square when a coworker busted through the swinging doors of the kitchen.
“He come running in the back (sic), he’s like: ‘Yo, they got him! They got him! Found Osama dead, man! Obama got Osama.’ And I was like heck yeah,” Lang said.
He grabbed a cowbell, the same one servers use to ring in orders when it’s loud, he ran out under the Citgo sign and he started ringing it and didn’t stop for 15 minutes. Lang made his way to Boston Common, and so did hundreds of others.
If you hadn’t heard the news, you might have thought a Boston sports team had won a championship. The throngs of people were singing, shouting, even smoking victory cigars — only they were celebrating something very different: that an American bullet had killed bin Laden.
“This is history right here. This is a fight we’ve been waiting for and we won, man. That’s what it is,” said Kevin Tilton, who came from South Boston.
Many of the others were college kids. The way they stood around cases of beer, you might have thought they were using the news as an excuse to party. But they were feeling something more than that, said Alexa Capuano, no relation to the Massachusetts congressman. She was in her room studying when she heard the news.
“I was very happy and I called my parents, who were going to ground zero,” Capuano said.
Alexa’s from Long Island. She had neighbors who died at the World Trade Center.
“So I feel very strongly about this. And I think that’s it’s great that it’s bringing the country together again,” she said.
A music group from Berklee College of Music kept the party vibe going into the wee hours of the morning. The bassist, Zacharay Vanacoro, didn’t apologize for the festive mood.
“It’s a little morbid to be out at three in the morning celebrating because someone died,” he said. “But at the same time, a lot of people have died over the years. And this man’s been in charge of a lot of things that have been awful. It’s more an end to an era, an end to something bad.”
The Boston police who were keeping an eye on things were cool about it. They didn’t seize any beer. They didn’t mind the singing. They didn’t mind the chants of ‘U-S-A.’ Finally, at three in the morning, police started clearing out the last revelers.
Boston Common grew peaceful as everyone, including Capuano, headed home to sleep.
Capuano was 9 years old when Sept. 11 happened.
“And now, me being 18 years old, and Osama being killed — it’s a moment that will define history,” she said.
She was happy, and relieved, that something she’s been waiting half her life for, has finally come.